Dom João VI / King John VI (May 13, 1767 - March 10, 1826 AD) governed Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves from 1792 - 1826. He sailed to Brazil in 1808 as the French invaded Portugal, and remained in the Brazilian colonies until 1821. João VI was well-known for several unusual habits, from keeping roast chicken in his pockets (and in his servant’s saddlebags) to wearing the same clothes until they fell apart. Imagine if he had an online dating profile…
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João’s mother, Queen Maria I, became unfit to rule in 1792 when she began having terrifying hallucinations (likely due to mixed porphyria), and João took over in her place. He officially became Prince Regent in 1799 and then King after Maria’s death in 1816. João is typically remembered as an indecisive ruler, who frequently hesitated to make important decisions. He was also remembered for his gentle nature – his court held daily “hand-kissing ceremonies” where subjects of all classes and backgrounds could petition him for aid.
João VI always referred to himself as “Your Majesty”. He loved roast chicken and would eat it with his hands, carrying it around in his stained pockets. He hated change. He always slept in the same spot and got upset if his furniture was moved – he even hated to change his clothes, and wore them until they fell apart (his servants really did repair his clothes when he took naps). He was terrified of thunder and lightning, and of crabs. There is only one reference to him taking a bath during the thirteen years he spent in Brazil, and that was under doctor’s orders: a tick bite became infected, and João had a portable bath house constructed so he could be lowered into the ocean to bathe the wound in salt water (whether he was more afraid of encountering crabs or being seen naked is up for debate).
The real João VI may not have been interested in online dating (though there’s always the allure of finding that special someone who can appreciate greasy chicken pockets and rampant skin infections). Sources suggest that he was only mildly interested in women or men, and more based on convenience than passion.
During João’s rule, Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I) had taken over much of Europe and forced many European nations to close their ports to British trade. João agreed to close Portugal’s ports in the Treaty of Badajoz (1801) but never followed through. Instead, with the help of the British, João and his court escaped to the Brazilian colonies in 1808.
In Napoleon’s memoirs, he wrote that João was “the only one who tricked me.” General Andoche Junot (French ambassador to the Portuguese court 1804-5, and leader of the French invasion in 1807) remembered João in a less flattering light – when he met João, Junot exclaimed to his wife, “My God! How ugly he is!”
Dom Pedro: The Struggle for Liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798-1834. Neill Macaulay. Durham: Duke University Press. 1986.
1808 The Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and the British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World. Laurentino Gomes, translated from Portuguese by Andrew Nevins. Connecticut: Lyons Press. 2007; translated edition 2013.
- João VI. Artist unknown. Date unknown. Wikimedia.
- Dom João VI - Retrato no Palacio Real d’Ajuda. Portrait of D. João VI (1767-1826). Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837 CE). 19th century. Wikimedia.
- Dom João VI. Gianni. 19th century. Wikimedia.
- Dom João VI. Paul Tassert. 19th century. Wikimedia.
- Retrato de Joao VI, Principe do Brasil (The future King João VI when Prince of Brazil). Giuseppe Troni (1739-1810 CE). 18th century. Wikimedia.
- Napoleon Bonaparte. Colored recreation after Paul Delaroche (1797-1856 CE). 19th century. Wikimedia.
- Carlota Joaquina. Nicolas Antoine Taunay (1755-1830 CE). c. 1817. Wikimedia.
- George III. Charles Turner. 1820. Wikimedia.
- Maria I of Portugal as Queen. Unknown artist. c. 1777. Wikimedia.
- Ocypode quadrata (Martinique). Patrick Verdier. 2003. Wikimedia.
- Blister Beetle. Encyclopedia Britannica. 1911. Wikimedia.